Lights On Briefing: India-EU hydrogen hopes, Nepal rice woes and more

Key headlines of the week

Lights On Briefing: India-EU hydrogen hopes, Nepal rice woes and more

Happy Tuesday and welcome to today’s edition of Lights On, with this week’s key stories on energy and climate change in South Asia.

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Polluters win yet another battle

This newsletter is just over two years old, and this is the third time it reports the same news (here and here): once again, the climate change ministry has extended the deadline for coal fired power plants to install pollution safeguards which would help reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide, a toxic gas of which India is the world’s largest emitter. The new cut off dates to install Flue Gas Desulfurisation (FGD) technology are December 2027 for old, retiring thermal plants, December 2026 for non-retiring plants, and 2024 for retiring units close to big cities. The original deadline had been set for 2017.

Food for thought as the capital Delhi approaches the dreaded pollution season and the government scrambles to put together a pollution plan.

HSBC enters India with green development plans

The UK-based banking giant has promised the equivalent of US$ 15.8 million over the next five years to boost conservation and the energy transition in India as part of its broader climate action plans. Reports don’t clarify the nature of the investment - whether it’s a grant or a loan - but the bank said the plan will cover nature-based solutions such as mangroves and forest restoration, as well as renewable and energy efficiency projects in sectors such as healthcare, dairy cold chain and more.

Falling back on coal imports

While energy independence is one of India’s priorities, “availability of power for the common man is non-negotiable", as power and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh put it. With coal stockpiles dwindling, power utilities are left with an average 10 days’ supply, way below the standard three weeks buffer. The government is now contemplating increasing imports of coal, which still generates 70 percent of the country’s electricity.

India-EU hydrogen hopes

Delegates from the European Commission and the Indian government met last week to discuss cooperation opportunities in the green hydrogen field. Sources say that European business delegates were sceptical of India’s expansion promises, since the country has yet to build the huge manufacturing capacity needed to support its ambitions. More importantly, while India is keen to export its future output to the EU, there seems to be a degree of mismatch between the two sides on what constitutes ‘green’ hydrogen.


Getting to the bottom of the climate question

In an emergency visit to the flood-stricken country, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed to nations to address Pakistan’s ‘climate catastrophe’. This week we’ll know for sure to what extent climate change played a part in the disaster, after the release of a study by the scientists’ collective World Weather Attribution, which will model with precision the likelihood of such floods in a world under climate change, by comparing it to a computer modelled one without global warming.


Indian coal lends a helping hand

Gautam Adani, the billionaire founder and chairman of the Indian conglomerate Adani Group, plans to start exporting electricity to Bangladesh before the end of the year. The energy will come from a 1600 MW power plant in the coal-rich state of Jharkhand, which will be connected to the neighbouring country on 16 December, according to the industrialist. The move is in line with the Indian government’s aspiration of boosting its soft power through energy trade in the region.


Rice woes

India’s crunch on rice exports is affecting food supplies in Nepal, which is expecting scarce yields of the grain and is counting on imports from its southern neighbour. On the other side of the border, climate change has badly hit rice production, compelling the government to slap a 20 percent export duty on certain varieties, except the popular basmati and parboiled rice. Nepali experts now fear severe food inflation as well as a boom in illegal rice trade.

On Twitter this week

Hard to capture the enormity & devastation of Pakistan’s floods. In stats: 33 million ppl affected. Over 1,300 ppl killed (⅓ children). 750k livestock killed. 1.7 million homes destroyed. 17,500 schools damaged.
In searing visuals from today, countless villages now underwater: 8, 2022

Research and further readings

  • Analysis: When Bengaluru became Venice - A sharp account of the recent floods in India’s IT Hub Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), and how climate change has compounded poor urban planning and waste management in the city to create an unprecedented disaster, with hundreds of families evacuated and colossal damages yet to be estimated.
  • Opinion: Climate change is a bigger threat to Pakistan than terrorism - Important piece that puts the recent environmental disaster in the context of the India-Pakistan rivalry, reflecting on how cooperation on shared threats should take precedence over historical political hostility.
  • Analysis: Pakistan floods: will rich nations ever pay for climate loss and damage? - Spoiler alert: in the face of growing climate disasters, rich nations’ motivation to make financial amends is lower than ever. This informative piece on The Conversation - which has covered the Pakistan disaster very well over the past few weeks - breaks down why loss and damage is likely to remain a fraught diplomatic battlefield.
  • Opinion: Nepal mocks green pledges by approving new oil pipelines - The controversy over new planned fossil fuel infrastructure, after the government committed to decarbonising Nepal’s transport sector through EV adoption, is “a glaring example of a fractured and unstable political situation” which could undermine the country’s energy transition efforts.

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